For many years, I kept a journal. I was not as committed as I should or could have been. Days, even weeks, would pass without a single entry.
Finally, I gave up. I was having some physical problems, and all I was writing was how bad I felt, and how many pills I was taking and what the doctor said. Instead of feeling better from “talking” to a journal, the more I “talked,” the worse I felt. It was depressing.
Eventually I felt good physically, mentally, psychologically, even spiritually, but I never resumed journaling on a regular basis. I regret that, even now.
And even now, I wish I would once again recall and record my activities and thoughts at the end of every day. It would have to be done every day, since with age, there are times when I can’t remember today all that I did yesterday.
The big events, those happenings that interest all of us, are in the headlines daily, so there may be no reason to include those in a daily personal journal. But if those events make an impact on us in any way, if they cause changes in our lifestyles or opinions, they automatically become a part of our story.
Headlines aside, it is established fact that “writing it down” is therapeutic. It causes us to analyze. We’re pushed to find words and phrases that express our thoughts and actions.
We divulge our hopes and plans to this faceless audience. We admit our failures and mistakes, or we boast of our successes.
We might do nothing but list our mundane chores, the people we saw and talked with, the day-in day-out family and community and church doings … a carbon copy of our daily calendar.
If we do that, and do it well, we’ll have a documented record to connect us with things that might seem unimportant today, but will prove to be very important in the future. I’m reminded of a friend who never allows a day to go by without committing the events of her day to her journal.
Wish I would do that. Instead, I depend on my pocket calendar and my feeble memory, both of which are not accurate.
I’m not likely to forget that the summer of 2004 was primary election time; that trees were felled on 32 acres in the middle of our town to make way for unimaginable development; that our family made lists upon lists and went to endless showers and luncheons in preparation for a wedding; that Woodstock Elementary School closed its doors on Main Street for the last time; that a dear friend’s husband died; and that this Hughes household passed that 50-year milestone.
But then again, it’s even more likely that a year or two down the road, I won’t remember the year, only the events. And if I follow in the footsteps, or “brainsteps,” of my ancestors, I won’t remember much of either.”
The current scrapbooking fad was really catching on in 2004. It added much to journaling.
When there are precocious grandchildren around, it follows that we make a lot of photographs. Those of us who don’t do digital find ourselves with boxes of photos and little time to put them in albums or scrapbooks. Perhaps that’s as it should be.
I remember as a child how much fun it was to go through the cigar boxes and shoe boxes filled with pictures of grandparents and their ancestors. There were a couple of scrapbook/picture albums, with black pages and corner protectors to preserve the precious pictures.
We handled all of them with care, and grieved when the house burned, destroying all of them. Thoughtful friends and relatives gave us copies, and with today’s technology, those have been reproduced numerous times.
What we didn’t have are journal entries to go with them. Nobody recorded Papa’s memories, nobody asked Grandma for answers to those important questions about our ancestors. And needless to say, they didn’t write them down themselves.
So it’s a lesson we should have learned. We might think our lives are dull, and who would be interested. But our children’s children, and even total strangers, will someday want to know what happened in 2004.
And 2014 as well. Makes us realize more and more that life is a journey, and it demands a journal. Bloggers take note.
Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.